Playing with Ideas
written by Rev Gary Heard

In the margins of my mind strange discussions and imaginings take place. It is the place where I dream of “what if?” and pull apart “what is”: where I entertain thoughts of possibilities and rail against realities which irk. From time to time I spend time at the margins, playing with the ideas, pushing and pulling them around, occasionally jettisoning some, at other times introducing others. When I occasionally take the time for a long-term view, I am amazed to discover how these marginal ideas have occasionally migrated to mainstream: things which many years ago I would banter around but have now become a central part of my life journey.

For example, I remember a conversation held at a conference on evangelism in 1993, when I suggested to another that we were on the cusp of a radical shift in thinking, both in the wider world and in the church. With the emergence of nostalgia in music and culture, I reflected that the times were not unlike those preceding the emergence of rock and roll music, when there were “Glenn Miller orchestras” emerging all over the place. I have to confess that the response I received was rather quizzical at the time, not unlike the response I had received during ministry training a few years earlier when I asked whether it was possible to have worship without singing. Both were thoughts I returned to periodically in the intervening years, until I allowed them to be ‘mainstreamed’ in my own life.

There are also ideas which might have floated around for a  while only to be disappear into the ether (I vaguely remember an idea related to… no it is truly gone!), and others which have made the reverse journey – from being at the centre of my thinking but now no longer prominent, or placed into the margins to be reimagined, perhaps even lost forever. The place (and style) of preaching, and congregational singing are two in the latter category pertaining to church life.

Playing with ideas… seems to many to be immature. When we are dealing with serious matters, why play with them? Ought we not be much more serious about such important things?

I’d respond that these things are too important not to be played with. Children learn best through play. And adults are no different. Who hasn’t tried to make a computer game do something ‘out of the ordinary’? Or ‘played’ with a popular song from time to time? It is here that our creative and constructive energies are released. Perhaps the deeper question to be asked is not whether we should play with ideas, but whether this play ought to be mainstreamed rather than marginalised? Surely there is a place for both.

May 23, 2004
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